Can you tell a book by its cover?

The Classic

I have been writing for Mills and Boon for thirty years. My first book was accepted in 1991 and published in December 1992. It had the classic retro cover that I still love.

Sadly, I only had two books with this cover design (although more of that later) when M&B went for a modern makeover.

The Hearts

This is it. My fourth book. As with the classic covers, each book had a different colour. We all hated having the brown cover and I wasn’t wild about the image, either. Too stiff and that haircut!

The hearts didn’t last for long. I had a few – all better than this one, but I don’t have images of them.

This is from 1995

 

The Big Split

After the heart covers, the books split into two series in the UK, Enchanted and Modern. My books fit the Enchanted series and this is possibly my first cover in the new livery and was published in 1996. (All She Wants for Christmas has been republished as Trouble in Paradise – the new cover is on the right.)

Other titles in these covers were The Bride, the Baby & the Best Man, The Three Year Itch (I can’t tell you how much I hate that title – and how wrong it was for the book), and Eloping With Emmy. There may have been more, but without a serious fossick in the depths of my bookshelves I can’t be sure.

And then we went yellow.

 

 

The Yellow Period

I should probably draw a veil over this series of covers, because although I’m showing you one, they kept fiddling with it and there were at least four different versions One with the picture similar to the striped version. Then a plain portrait image. Then a plain rectagular image and finally, and probably the best, this oval image.

This cover caused a huge problem – the heroine’s dress was yellow. There were references to the fact that she would look like a duckling. Marketing, with their yellow cover, wanted the dress to be pink. My editor, the fabulous Ceri Tomlins, told them to go away and think again because the dress was yellow and they needed to accept it. And they delivered. And the yellow dress looks perfect – pink would have been hideous!

And then came orange

Like the yellow covers, the orange iteration came in several versions. Here are a three of them. Oh, and now the series is called Tender Romance.

Are you keeping up?

 

And finally, we went pink

The orange was finally replaced with pink. Not before time , I hear you say. And another series name, this time Cherish.

Personally, I think they should have stopped with either Christmas Angel for the Billionaire – clear title, although the author name could be bigger, or The Sheikh’s Convenient Princess. – ditto. The last change, with almost illegible title and author name is my least favourite ever. I really feel for the reader who, over the last thirty years – if she’s stuck with the series, or me, for that long! – has had to negotiate the shelves to find the series she wants. And why are there two version of A Wedding at Leopard Tree Lodge? I have no idea.

And just to confuse you further, a couple of deviations –

For the 100th Anniversary of Mills and Boon, they reprinted a 100 novellas in this old retro style cover. There were two of mine but this is the only one I can find. It was about the time when digital started to take off, and this book was mentioned in The Daily Telegraph as one of the most downloaded books on Amazon. They didn’t bother to mention who wrote it, but hey, you can’t have everything – although I sometimes wonder why not.

And finally, there was the brief moment when the Romance/Tender/Enchanted/Cherish/TrueLove series was incorporated into a new series called RIVA.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed this gallop through cover memory lane.

I’d love to know which covers you like best, or really turn you off.

13 Replies to “Can you tell a book by its cover?”

  1. I love your first cover, Liz. Those were the days! So many of the interim covers look too cluttered. Agree with you that the pink “ombre” effect of The Sheikh’s Convenient Princess works well. Our current pink lozenge is simple at least, but it’s such a blob and for the two-in-one paperbacks, takes up way too much of the cover image (although in some cases, that’s probably a plus, she added wickedly!)

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Tracy. I think the beauty of the original covers is that they are instantly recognisable. They just stand out on the shelf. My objection to the latest is not the lozenge as such, but the fact that the titles and author names are so hard to see. White on pink is not a great combination.

  2. What a wonderful walk down memory lane, Liz!

    The An Image of You cover is quintessential Mills and Boon and a classic. I can understand wanting to move with the times, but I always feel that that cover style was so iconic and the 100th Birthday Celebration cover clearly showed that it could easily have been made to look more modern and contemporary.

    As a devoted M&B reader, I’d buy the books regardless of the covers, but I admit to a soft spot for the hearts cover although my favourite cover style for the line will always be the pink Mills and Boon Romance covers – and I never understood why in the UK they keep changing the name of the line when it’s worked so well in the States as simply Romance.

    I’m not a fan of the current UK covers. As I’ve stated in the past, the author name is far too small – I read across the lines and have many favourites across many series, so the author is a bigger draw to me than the series.

    The current US covers are brilliant although the Australian covers are my favourites at the moment – especially for their Forever Romance line. They found the right balance between cover images, author name and book title.

    1. The UK seems to have struggled with the romance series ever since the lines were split to follow the US model. A major mistake in my humble opinion. Even so, the sales are much stronger here than in the US where they have to compete with so many other series. But, yes, the Australian covers are lovely.

  3. Oh, the ticking pillow case cover! A friend of mine said, “If that’s the one the focus group chose, the others must have been truly dire.” And then they followed it with custard. I remember it so well.

  4. Oh the memories! I well recall the plethora of changes over the years. Our historicals were different but underwent similar transitions. My most hated series line title was Legacy of Love. I wish they had stuck with Masquerade.
    The current covers are very modern and swish, I notice. Whether they bear any relation to the stories within is another matter.

    1. The dread of an announcement of cover/name changes! Legacy of Love is tragic. πŸ™‚ The idea is to capture new young readers, the reality is that we lost older readers who were confused and gave up struggling with the changes.

  5. The design I recognise and like best is your first one, Liz. But such a shame they concentrate so. hard on their own branding rather than thatof the author. For instance, have your own series – Maybridge, Melchester etc – linked covers?

    1. It is certainly the iconic cover that everyone instantly recognises, Lesley and that’s what’s been missing with the constant changes. I’m sad to say that none of my Maybridge, Melchester or Ice Cream girl covers have ever been linked.

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